Red­skin has gift of grab; big-play re­ceiver 5-foot-10

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - Sports - By Joseph White

ASHBURN, Va. — When his mother fi­nally re­lented and de­cided to let him play foot­ball, San­tana Moss got the ball at his first prac­tice and out­ran ev­ery­one else for what should have been a sure touch­down.

In­stead, he slowed down and let ev­ery­one tackle him.

“I didn’t know the con­cept,” Moss said. “It was kind of funny as a 12-year-old, I didn’t know much about the game. But once I learned it, it was down­hill from there.”

That might have been the one and only chance some peo­ple would ever have to run down Moss, who has used his speed and ath­leti­cism to be­come a big-play, game-chang­ing­force­with­theWash­ing­ton Red­skins. At 5-foot-10, he com­pen­sates for his smaller stature with an ag­gres­sive approach to the ball. Once he has it, good luck chas­ing him. “I haven’t seen any­body that I can re­mem­ber that re­acts to the long ball the way he does,” Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs said. “He has un­usual body con­trol on any­thing deep.

Dif­fer­ent from most re­ceivers

“Most guys have to re­ally look at the ball and size it up and put their hands where they need to go to get it at the high point. He can just glance, see where it is, and then he has a way of go­ing to get it. He is real grace­ful when he goes to get the ball. When he hits the ground, he is an ex­cep­tional run­ner.”

That’s an apt de­scrip­tion of what hap- pened last week­end, when Moss snagged a high pass from Mark Brunell near the side­line with a cor­ner­back on one side and a safety clos­ing in. Both were left dumb­founded as Moss came down with the catch and ran un­touched for a 68-yard touch­down to win the game in over­time against the Jack­sonville Jaguars.

When Brunell threw the pass, Gibbs heard one of his as­sis­tants in his head­set yell, “Don’t go there!” Once Moss caught it, the yell changed to, “OK, go there!” Brunell said the pass was so risky he will prob­a­bly be ad­vised by coaches never to try it again, and that he wouldn’t have taken the chance if Moss hadn’t been the re­ceiver.

“He’s got the abil­ity to go up there and make some­body miss and make the catch,” Brunell said.

Brunell wasn’t nearly as con­fi­dent in Moss on March 10, 2005, when the Red­skins ac­quired the re­ceiver in a trade that sent dis­grun­tled wide­out Lav­er­anues Coles back to the New York Jets. Coles was com­ing off a solid sea­son — 90 catches for 950 yards — even though the of­fence had not been very good in Gibbs’s first year out of re­tire­ment.

“When we traded a guy that had 80some­thing, 90-some­thing catches for a guy that had 30 or 40, you look at the num­bers and think, ’Who got the bet­ter end of that deal?’ ” Brunell said.

Moss caught 151 passes over four in­con­sis­tent sea­sons with the Jets, where he had sour deal­ings with the no­to­ri­ous New York me­dia.

Brother plays for Gi­ants

In con­trast to his days in New York, Moss en­joys star sta­tus in Wash­ing­ton. He’ll for­ever be re­mem­bered for his two fourth-quar­ter touch­down catches at Dal­las last year, turn­ing a 13-0 hole into a 1413 vic­tory. That per­for­mance jump-started the Red­skins’ sea­son — and put Moss on track to­ward his first Pro Bowl. His three touch­downs last week­end sim­i­larly pro­vided a needed boost for Wash­ing­ton’s of­fence in 2006.

Moss was se­lected the NFC of­fen­sive player of the week for his game against the Jaguars, but he’s not one who makes a fuss about hon­ours. Or, as he calls it, “all that mushy stuff.”

“As long as I know what I have done, I don’t need some­one to brag about it.”

Moss does come close to mushy when asked about his fam­ily. Brother Si­norice is a rookie re­ceiver with the Gi­ants, and brother Adam is a kicker in col­lege for Florida In­ter­na­tional. Si­norice is in­jured and won’t play Sun­day, but San­tana said the game will have ex­tra mean­ing none­the­less.

“Once I started play­ing foot­ball — you can ask my brothers — I came home and told them ev­ery­thing, both of them. I fed ’em, fed ’em, fed ’em. Now they’re 20 and above and I’m still feed­ing them more knowl­edge and let­ting them know. That’s the good thing about be­ing a big brother.”

Moss said he has a hunger for the game be­cause his mother wouldn’t let him play un­til he was 12. Then he had a high school coach who gave him scant play­ing time un­til his se­nior year.

“You know how peo­ple say: ’Live life like it’s your last day?’ I kind of take my catches like that,” Moss said.

Now he’s tak­ing the same approach with son, San­tana Jr.

“My son’s six and he’s ea­ger to go out and play,” Moss said. “I’m just go­ing to let him stay hun­gry and wait un­til I think he’s ready.”

—AP

San­tana Moss made a play last week the coaches couldn’t be­lieve

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